New Kingston Teens Cookbook Highlights The Farm Project’s Work


Strolling through the now fallow rows of a small farm that is the centerpiece of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, an educational urban farm located on a third of an acre across from the Y, Alexander Rios, 16, recounts his work on the farm has changed it.

“Before I started working here, I would definitely stay indoors all the time. Never active, just a redneck, ”the soft-spoken teenager said. He reluctantly began working on the farm when his parents insisted that he find a summer job and discovered that he loved the work and the community he had found. He’s also eating healthier now, he says.

“I have never had any experience in the garden because I had never had the opportunity, plus I live in an apartment and the owner doesn’t really allow it,” Rios adds. “Reconnecting with nature and figuring out where your food comes from makes you realize the quality of food. The kale here tastes better than the store bought stuff.

KayCee Wimbush, project manager and farmer, explains that The Farm Project focuses on community food production and farm stalls, on-farm education for school-aged children, and empowering youth through employment of high school students to work on the farm. The Farm Project is also committed to doing anti-racism work through social justice programs and initiatives.

Now, a new 140-page cookbook from The Farm Project – called “The Farm Project Cookbook” and published in English and Spanish – is the culmination of a pandemic project that teens have under Julia’s direction, New York Times bestselling cookbook author and area resident. Turshen (“Simply Julia”, “Feed the Resistance”), who volunteered on the farm. The students may be less famous than Gwyneth Paltrow, with whom Turshen has collaborated on several books, but the end product of their work together is similar: a cookbook that is both charming to look at and inspiring to cook.

Development of virtual recipes with teenagers

Working on their bilingual cookbook, the youth of the Farm Project tested recipes at Kingston’s Upstate Table.

Kingston YMCA Agricultural Project

During the pandemic, Turshen suggested that the Farm Project develop the cookbook as a remote, user-friendly way to involve children in the program’s weekly cooking team, when students cook and share a meal with the group and children. community leaders.

“I also thought the book would be a really positive and proud experience to do and something that Farm Project supporters could buy and share,” Turshen said.

Rios says being part of a cookbook that everyone can see makes him feel good. He drew pictures of vegetables, including garlic scapes, for the book and twice tested kale chips, which he found best when they were crisp.

Most cookbooks are not bilingual, but “The Farm Project Cookbook” is and is part of the ongoing anti-racism education work of staff; Farm Project staff attended a six-part workshop on linguistic justice.

“It seemed important to me to practice what we preached,” says Wimbush. “We wanted the cookbook to be in Spanish and English because there is a large Spanish speaking community in Kingston. And the families of the children who worked there could access it.

The cookbook features 30 simple, farm-friendly recipes, including Isaiah’s Father’s Salsa, a Farm Project favorite made with tomatoes and jalapeños that’s simple enough for anyone to cook.

The teens produced all the recipes, accompanying stories, cookbook illustrations and an eclectic 30 song playlist called FarmFam Cooking Essentials, with music kids love from Chris Brown, Marvin Gaye, King Princess and Mxmtoon, available on Spotify. The students, together with Turshen, Wimbush and Director of Education Susan Hereth, chose the recipes after extensive discussion and after testing and re-testing at home or in another author’s space. local cookbooks, Rebecca Miller Ffrench.

In the Zoom sessions, Turshen applied the same approach as when collaborating with other writers: she asked them what they liked most about a dish, didn’t like, or what they thought made it better. .

The Farm Project Cookbook is a collaboration with local bestselling cookbook author Julia Turshen.

The Farm Project Cookbook is a collaboration with local bestselling cookbook author Julia Turshen.

Kingston YMCA Agricultural Project

The book was developed over two months of these weekly sessions and follow-up emails. A friend from Wimbush did the translations. Turshen’s father, Doug Turshen, a prominent book designer, and a colleague created the final design.

Julie Miller, 15, had no idea recipes are tested for a cookbook. She enjoys learning “a lot of life skills and other opportunities I may have for the future” and now enjoys cucamelon, a Mexican melon that looks like a mini cucumber.

The heart of the book lies in the sincere words of the students about their experiences at the Farm Project. The pages highlight members who share how their curiosity was aroused, their social anxiety diminished, and how they enjoy learning to combat racism. The cookbook is available for $ 30 (including postage) from the project’s website and $ 25 from Kingston’s independent bookstore, Rough Draft. Proceeds from book sales support the agricultural project’s programs, including salaries for students who work on the farm and earn $ 13.50 an hour.

The impact goes beyond agriculture

Wimbush launched The Farm Project in 2013; Hereth joined her five years ago, expanding the program from a summer job to year round programming. Before COVID, there were 30 agricultural teams; currently 10 are participating to limit exposure and because it is not the growing season. Students plant seedlings, process compost, weed, harvest, store and work at the farm stand at the Y (currently Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.) where the crops are sold.

During the colder winter months, the Hudson Valley Farm Hub donates produce for students to sell as The Farm Project does not have a greenhouse. The weekly kitchen team learns to master the knife and read a recipe.

Liz Jones, 15, enjoys helping her community by growing food for her. She recently estimated that The Farm Project produced 4,400 pounds of produce this year. This includes vegetables like hot peppers, tomatoes, and okra that are familiar, so people know how to cook them, or are culturally relevant to appeal to Black, Central American, or Mexican communities in the region. All are grown using organic methods and a very low carbon footprint.

The Farm Project also oversees a design team, which works on projects to benefit the community, and BARK (Beautifying and Restoring Kingston), where teens learn skills related to environmental stewardship and community engagement. .

Phillip Hanson, 17, worked on BARK’s African burial project before joining the farm and kitchen teams. He was amazed to find out that he lived next door to the cemetery and to learn of the high rate of slavery in Ulster County and New York State. He says the region’s rich and often unrecognized history has prompted him to “think more about the world.”

Hanson has also learned how food brings people together and enjoys seeing new and recurring faces at the farm stand. His sense of pride is evident. “You really started from the beginning, from the seed, then everything grows,” he comments.

The Farm Project’s slogan, Growing A Healthier Kingston, is apt. “We literally grow healthy food,” says Wimbush. “But we see it engaging these young people in their community and giving them various points of contact, ways to engage and benefit the community. We are building a bigger and broader community, ”adding that adolescents are healthier of mind, mind and body as a result.

Food justice and anti-racist education

Making the cookbook bilingual is not only a product of their community, but also a result of the staff's six-part workshop on linguistic justice.

Making the cookbook bilingual is not only a product of their community, but also a result of the staff’s six-part workshop on linguistic justice.

Kingston YMCA Agricultural Project

All of the agricultural project participants attend nearby Kingston High School, most of them are people of color and their families are eligible for public assistance. Although born in the United States, many have immigrant parents.

The Farm Project’s anti-racist work evolved from natural discussions of food justice and access. However, this cannot be seen in a vacuum, says Wimbush. With school closed during the social uprisings of the summer of 2020, teens had no room to process their feelings. Seeing their “real need to talk and to be educated,” Wimbush said that she and Hereth, who both live in Kingston and have masters in education, guided them through reading Ibram X’s books. Kendi , “Stamped” and “How to be an anti-racist”.

The teens created a Black Lives Matter memorial on the farm and successfully advocated for November 26, 2020 to be Sojourner Truth Day in Kingston, which is now a permanent public holiday there; a bill has been proposed to make it statewide. Rios says reading the proclamation at a farm ceremony with County Manager Pat Ryan was “really cool.”

Wimbush says, “It teaches them that they can make an impact and influence things, but you have to raise your voice.”

The Farm Project grows more than food. Said Turshen, “I took so much hope for the future knowing that these teens will be a part of it. I am so happy to know that as they age and become leaders of their communities, they will make informed decisions, among other things, by their involvement in the agricultural project. I might have planted a seed, but they were the real farmers.

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